Despite the absence of DeMarcus Cousins, the New Orleans Pelicans still managed to shock the league and sweep the No. 3 seed Portland Trail Blazers in the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs. Their impressive performance against the Trail Blazers left some fans with one big question, are the Pelicans better off without Cousins?
Moke Hamilton of Basketball Insiders is one of the few people who believe the Pelicans should part ways with DeMarcus Cousins in the upcoming offseason. The 27-year-old power forward/center is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer and expected to be one of the most coveted superstars on the market. When Cousins went down with a season-ending injury in January, no one expected the Pelicans to enter or make a huge impact in the Western Conference Playoffs.
However, they proved their doubters wrong after they become the first team to advance in the second round by eliminating the Trail Blazers in just four games. Hamilton believes Cousins' absence somewhat contributed to the Pelicans' playoff success. During the regular season, when Boogie is on the court, Anthony Davis took fewer shots and scored lesser points per contest. Without Cousins, Davis significantly increased his shot attempts from 17.6 to 21.9 and his scoring from 26.5 points to 30.2 points per game.
Also, with DeMarcus Cousins playing at center, Rajon Rondo and Jrue Holiday had difficulty executing the pace and space which they need to become more effective for the Pelicans on the court. As Hamilton noted, Cousins could be a game-changing talent, but he might not be the best long-term fit for the Pelicans.
As of now, it's highly unlikely that the Pelicans will just let DeMarcus Cousins walk away in free agency without giving a tough fight. They sacrificed valuable trade assets just to bring him to New Orleans. Since Cousins joined the Pelicans, Anthony Davis envisioned themselves making numerous accomplishments together. He went as far as saying that the Pelicans could reach the NBA Finals if Cousins didn't suffer an injury, per ESPN.
So far, the upcoming free agency is still not on the Pelicans' mind as they are currently preparing for the Western Conference Semifinals where they could possibly face the San Antonio Spurs or the reigning NBA champions Golden State Warriors. Meanwhile, Cousins is showing a good improvement in his rehabilitation and expected to give his full support for the Pelicans in the next round.